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Higher Ratio Of Black People Labeled Mentally Ill In The UK

Black people in the United Kingdom, like black people in the USA, are apparently being treated for mental disorders at a disproportionately higher rate than their white neighbors.

This is what we find in a post from The Colorful Times, Issues in Black Mental Health.

However, according to a report published by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, the relationship between black communities and mental health services is characterized by fear and mistrust, with black people reluctant to seek help from a service they see as punitive and racist. This is all the more alarming when you consider the large body of research literature suggesting that race has a powerful influence on risk of mental illness, with studies consistently reporting a higher incidence of schizophrenia and psychotic illnesses in black than white populations in the UK.

The article goes on to further elaborate about this disproportion.

Dr Kwame McKenzie of London’s Institute of Psychiatry sees racism as aetiologically important in the development of mental illness. Writing in a January 2003 edition of the British Medical Journal, he identified racial discrimination as a major public health issue. Indeed, a 2002 survey of Caribbean, African and Asian people found that those who had experienced a racist attack in the preceding year were nearly 3 times more likely to be suffering from depression and 5 times more likely to be suffering from psychosis.

In the Not Only Department, this treatment of black people seems by and large more punitive and extreme than it is for people of northern European ancestry.

This misperception of the risk of violence posed by black people is thought to underlie the over- representation of African Caribbeans in psychiatric services. Moreover, it seems to underpin the large body of research indicating an experience of mental health services for black people in the UK that is frequently negative, inadequate and overwhelmingly coercive.

I used to do volunteer work with a social justice organization, The Virginia Organizing Project, and one of the campaigns we were engaged in was directed against racial profiling by law enforcement officers. This is how Wikipedia characterizes racial profiling.

Racial profiling is the inclusion of racial or ethnic characteristics in determining whether a person is considered likely to commit a particular type of crime or an illegal act or to behave in a “predictable” manner.

We also learn this from Racial Profiling of African, Hispanic (Latino), and Asian Americans.

The most common example of police racial profiling is “DWB”, otherwise known as “driving while black”. This refers to the practice of police targeting African Americans for traffic stops because they believe that African Americans are more likely to be engaged in criminal activity.

The point I am trying to make here is that apparently it isn’t only officers of the law who engage in racial profiling. Mental health professionals, mental health authorities, are resorting to the same thing. It may not be entirely conscious, but either the people of African ancestry are more prone to mental illnesses genetically, and given the diversity of peoples on the African continent that doesn’t make much sense, or mental health professionals are doing some, perhaps subconscious, racial profiling of their own. When these mental health professionals are often acting as an extension of the long arm of law enforcement anyway, it’s easy to see how some racial profiling might come into play where coercive practices are concerned.

2 Responses

  1. Their could be a very nasty angle to this. Psychiatrists in the “developed” nations might think that the psychiatry that was practiced from say 1800 to 1990 in their country has benefited the current population by removing defective genes from the gene pool. They consider them selves to be pragmatists. They might deplore the inhumane and eugenic practices of the bad old days but say to each other, “Oh well, fact is we have 2 million less schizophrenics in the USA today than we otherwise would have”. I’m sure there are a great many people who think that if it wasn’t for Hitler we’d have 40 or 50 million more Jews in the world.

    So it could be that migrant groups from “underdeveloped” nations are seen as seen as a population of people who have not yet “benefited” from selective culling and therefore have a higher incidence of mental illness. So these people are targeted and further molested. Since the method of coercive psychiatry is to incite and escalate they’ll have no difficulty adding to their client base.

    • I think there would be more of a problem of the kind of thing you’re talking about in developing countries rather than in developed ones. I’m thinking about countries like those in Africa, eastern Europe, and latin America that may be sympathetic with, or may have practiced, “ethnic cleansing” of one sort or another.

      This is not as likely to happen in the UK or the USA. I say this in a qualified sense though. We still have a problem with those eugenic policies that have not been entirely eliminated in the USA. Eugenics then is still very much with us; it is just a matter of recognising the case as being so, and doing something about it. Something needs to be done about those eugenic practices that are still being performed, and those eugenic laws that are still on books. It is too easy for people to look the other way, and pretend it all history.

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